COVID & Daycares or DC.gov’s Stupid Interpretation of CDC Guidelines

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.– Hanlon’s Razor

So March 15th our daycare closed in response to the corona virus. Then a few weeks later we got a message from our daycare that they would be open on a very limited-restricted basis. I figured it wouldn’t last long, and the daycare closed again citing rules from the DC Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE), which has oversight over schools & child care centers, that were impossible to follow.

I got a hold of those OSSE rules. Most made sense, but several seemed like they were written by someone with no practical knowledge of children or child behavior.

Then I compared those rules to the CDC’s Guidance for Childcare Programs That Remain Open. Yup, OSSE’s rules were written by an idiot, or an intern, or maybe a childless lawyer.

Let’s review shall we? These are the OSSE rules shared with me, I’ve italicized the stupid:

  • All staff & children above 2 years old must wear non-medical face coverings at all times
  • One staff member has to be at the door to receive children or go curbside
  • All surfaces must be cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected after each use
  • Staff must bring clothes to work to change every day before the start of work
  • Children & staff must be 6 feet apart at all times
  • Staff are not allowed to hug the children
  • Staff & children must wash their hands for 20 seconds every 20 minutes
  • Staff & parents [should be] aware of the requirement to check their own (or their child’s) temperature 2 hours or less before arrival to the facility each morning
  • Staff are to wear clean, large, button-down, long sleeved shirts when working with infants and young children.
  • Parents are required to wear non-medical face coverings when picking [up] and dropping off children
  • Signs posted in every classroom throughout the building with reminders regarding cleaning, disinfection, and sanitation, as well as hand hygiene

Of the 11 rules, 3 are stupid, so stupid all cannot be practically followed. And when looking at CDC’s guidance, they are horrible misinterpretations. Let’s compare:

Face Masks for Kids

OSSE: All staff & children above 2 years old must wear non-medical face coverings at all times.

CDC: Cloth face coverings should NOT be put on babies and children under age two because of the danger of suffocation.
and
When feasible, staff members and older children should wear face coverings within the facility. Cloth face coverings should NOT be put on babies and children under age two because of the danger of suffocation.

Notice the difference between what OSSE says and the CDC. The CDC is mainly saying don’t put masks on children under 2 because of the high risk of suffocation. It appears it got interpreted by OSSE as put masks on everyone over 2. I’m not 100% sure the danger of suffocation is non-existent for the 2-5 year old set. Also, we know for a fact 4 year olds like to rip off clothing. Shoes. Socks. That sort of thing. Many adults working in industries or conditions find protective masks irritating after several hours, and will take them off, I have my doubts the 2-5 year olds will have a greater tolerance.

There is a phrase in all the stupid OSSE rules, “at all times.”  Sometimes it’s the part that makes a reasonable rule, stupid. The CDC says that staff and older children (not really defined) should wear cloth face coverings “when feasible”, providing opportunities for meal times and other incidences when face coverings are not feasible or practical. The CDC’ “when feasible” provides more leeway than OSSE’s phrase “at all times,” which I can only imagine means mealtimes and nap times (opportunities for suffocation and partial ingestion of loose cloth– remember this covers the nose & mouth).

Social Distancing at the Childcare Facility

OSSE: Children & staff must be 6 feet apart at all times.
CDC: If possible, child care classes should include the same group each day, and the same child care providers should remain with the same group each day. If your child care program remains open, consider creating a separate classroom or group for the children of healthcare workers and other first responders. If your program is unable to create a separate classroom, consider serving only the children of healthcare workers and first responders.
and
Consider whether to alter or halt daily group activities that may promote transmission.

      • Keep each group of children in a separate room.
      • Limit the mixing of children, such as staggering playground times and keeping groups separate for special activities such as art, music, and exercising.
      • If possible, at nap time, ensure that children’s naptime mats (or cribs) are spaced out as much as possible, ideally 6 feet apart. Consider placing children head to toe in order to further reduce the potential for viral spread.

and
It is important to comfort crying, sad, and/or anxious infants and toddlers, and they often need to be held. To the extent possible, when washing, feeding, or holding very young children: Child care providers can protect themselves by wearing an over-large button-down, long sleeved shirt and by wearing long hair up off the collar in a ponytail or other updo.

There are several examples where the CDC propose the 6 feet of separation, during the pick up and dropoff period, temperature screening and naptime. I have failed to locate in the CDC guidelines anything close to the OSSE’s rule of staff being 6 ft. away from children at all times, which creates another safety issue. The OSSE rule makes no exception for toddlers who need close (less than 6ft) supervision, especially when they are mobile and attempting suicide via exploring their environment. Once again the CDC provides greater leeway than the OSSE.

Our particular daycare has several separate rooms that would allow mixed ages but separate spaces for children of 1st responders and other kids.

The OSSE rules appear not to allow for kids to be in groups, but the CDC does.

Lastly, on this point, outside of a Soviet orphanage, who does childcare at a 6 foot distance? If this was a temporary measure of a few days, less than a week, fine. Longer than that and there are some childhood developmental and behavioral issues (see institutional autism) that could crop up for some population of children. Logically when the economy starts opening up, some of these rules are going to remain in place in order to head off the second wave. And if all the stupid rules remain in place, then daycares cannot remain open and be in compliance.

Wash Yo Hands

OSSE: Staff & children must wash their hands for 20 seconds every 20 minutes
CDC: All children, staff, and volunteers should engage in hand hygiene at the following times:

    • Arrival to the facility and after breaks
    • Before and after preparing food or drinks
    • Before and after eating or handling food, or feeding children
    • Before and after administering medication or medical ointment
    • Before and after diapering
    • After using the toilet or helping a child use the bathroom
    • After coming in contact with bodily fluid
    • After handling animals or cleaning up animal waste
    • After playing outdoors or in sand
    • After handling garbage
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If hands are not visibly dirty, alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol can be used if soap and water are not readily available.
  • Supervise children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent ingestion.

The CDC guidelines on handwashing are something that should be done anyway, virus or no virus. My only concerns would be with drying out infant skin if interpreted to include them. But OSSE’s rules would have adults and children trying to wash hands 6ft apart constantly all day…. while wearing face masks.

Conclusion

I don’t know how long this is going last, and if things open this Summer, they’ll close back down for the 2nd wave, which tends to be worse than the 1st. I don’t expect to get back to life as it was in 2019. But I would like my daycare to open back up so I can get back to work and it (and the schools) can’t open up if OSSE insists on keeping unworkable rules that have less leeway than the CDC.

Yes, I care about my son’s safety, which is why I looked at the CDC’s webpage. If the daycares cannot open, then I guess we’ll be looking for a nanny, and that has it’s own issues.

You can contact the OSSE and ask about their rules their email is osse@dc.gov or you can fill out the Ask the Superintendent of Education form.

I Suck as a Hausfrau

View down Florida Avenue
Random picture of Florida Avenue NW

Well. If this furlough as proven anything, I suck as a housewife. I do not have what it takes to be a stay at home mom. I need to get back to work. This shutdown has lasted way too long.

The house is not cleaner than normal. I’ve scrubbed the kitchen floor several times, but somebody who will go unnamed, keeps throwing banana slices on the floor. Then somebody else who isn’t paying attention, steps on the slice or the sticky left over from the banana and tracks it all over the 1st floor.

The handywoman list of things to do, still undone. I haven’t fixed the sink. I have an excuse, I’m sick, with a cold. And I don’t wanna. The light needs me to have the ladder brought up and someone to spot me. That’s the negative to high ceilings, looks great but a pain to replace the lights.

The SAHM thing is not a thing for me, right now. When he’s not sick or school isn’t closed, Destruct-o-Baby still goes to daycare. He’s not waiting till 2 yo to be terrible. The holidays and other days when he’s stayed home with me, have not made me yearn to be with him all day. The laid back chill baby we brought home is gone, replaced by a loud, moody, whirlwind of energy (thus the name Desctruct-o-Baby) who throws food. Maybe if this had happened when he was still immobile, I might have fallen in love with the idea of hanging out with him all day, everyday. So yeah, he’s still going to daycare. I’m afraid if I pull him out we will lose our spot. We lucked out and weren’t on a waiting list to begin with, so not gonna screw with a good thing. If this lasts longer than 2 months, we might see if he can go part-time. Please Lord, don’t let this thing go longer than 2 months.

I am cooking more. I guess this is where I shine in one of the housewifery skills. Normally, one of us does 3 nights, and the other 3 nights and Wednesday is for sandwiches. Sandwiches are perfectly fine for dinner in this house. I’m doing all nights. Nothing fancy, but I did make some paneer cheese for palak paneer. No sandwiches, unless I plan for some fancy schmancy sandwiches like monte cristos or BLTs.

Thankfully, the Help has not complained about my hausfrau skills. Destruct-o has been complaining non-stop, but he started that before the shutdown.

 

Adoption- Dear Birthmother

November is National Adoption Month, so I’m writing a few posts about our experience.

Let’s hear it for the birthmom’s because without them, some of us would not be parents. We tried and failed to have a biological kid of our own. Miscarriages suck. I only had one and that was enough. But I came to appreciate that brief moment of pregnancy when an adoptive mom said that I at least was able to get pregnant. I’d like to think I’m a realist about our ages, so IVF would have been a waste of money and moral and mental energy. So adoption was the logical choice, and there can’t be adoptions without birthparents deciding to place their children with strangers like us.

I am incredibly grateful for Destruct-O-baby’s birthmom and her decision to let the agency pick us. Mainly because that let us re-name him and until then no birthfamily wanted us, like never getting picked for the parent team.

On some level I get that deciding to make an adoption plan to place (we don’t say ‘giving the child up’) a child is very difficult. We had to read the book “Dear Birthmother” and trying to understand the birth families’ perspective was a major part of our adoption classes. The agency continues to champion the side of the birthparent in the seasonal magazine we get from them. One issue talked about the challenges one mother in forming romantic relationships. So guys, if you’re dating a gal and you really like her, and she mentions she has a kid out there in the world being raised by other people, don’t be an ass about how you respond. You’d be doing me a huge favor.

Adoption- Human

Baby in portable bassinet
Baby in portable bassinet

I was going to wait until November, National Adoption month, to write about our adoption experience. But a retweet of something I saw with a long string of comments that do not reflect nor resemble our experience  prompted me to post this.

We’ve recently finalized the adoption of our son. It was a closed adoption per the birthmother’s wishes. And even though it is closed, we still need to write letters and send 5-6 photos of Destruct-O-baby every 3-4 months for the next couple of years. We were interviewed by a birthmother who wanted an open adoption, however, she didn’t choose us. But if she did there would have been more in person visits or more letters, depending on what she wanted.

The adoption itself did not cost $20-$30K. Rounding up less than $10K went to the agency for all the administrative and facilitation stuff. Less than $2K went to our lawyer, and I have no idea how much we spent to take the CPR classes, get the background checks, renovate the house for the inspections and home study. Those higher prices are international adoption prices. Destruct-O-baby is from the land of Mary (which means he’ll drive in the bike lane & speed through yellow and red lights).

Adoption has changed over the years. My sister in law (the one who drained her mother’s retirement fund in a year) was adopted from Korea. According to the Help, his parents were told to show up to the airport and they were handed a 2 year old, who became his sister. They did not have to take the classes. They were a school teacher and factory worker, so I’ll guess it wasn’t that expensive. We had to read books, write essays, take classes for several weeks and go through a lot more stuff before we could even get on a waiting list.

What helped us a lot, was the network of other parents we knew (mostly but not exclusively, from the Help’s church) who also went through the same agency. It was great when trying to figure out what to do, there was someone I could email or call. These include families who engage in fostering, foster to adopt, and respite care, separate from the infant adoption.

There are three parts of the adoption triangle, the birth families, the adopting families, and the adoptee. I can only speak about my part. Because of the agency’s national scope and functions other than domestic infant adoption they’ve attracted some vitriol, and it’s hard not to take some of those nasty comments personally.

Suing the city about daycare regs

The only reason why I’m curious about this is because I am a consumer of DC daycare, which is already expensive. I’m spending about $1500 a month, which I know is way cheaper than what some of my neighbors are spending on nanny shares and other daycare facilities. I’ve been told the wonderful women who care for the Babyman and his friends aren’t paid enough. The city decided that the lovely ladies need a college degree. I’m not sure who’s going to absorb that cost. As I mentioned, daycare is already f’ing expensive.

So there is a mom and two day care providers are suing the city, OSSE exactly, regarding the new regulations for childcare workers. Pictured is Ms. Sanchez who has a daycare in her home and claims the new regulation would put her out of business. My heart goes out to the parents who use her services, ’cause daycare waitlists ’round here are horrid. As soon as you are pregnant, find a daycare, get on their waitlist.

So I’m curious about this case. I’m also curious about increases in childcare costs to pay for the degree. I really hope we don’t lose the women Babyman seems most attached to at his daycare, but it is likely that will happen.

Baby adoption

Spouse and newly adopted son
The Help and Babyman

As some of our friends and neighbors know, my spouse (the Help) we are in the adoption process. Babyman (formerly the Helpless) has been in our home for 6 months and just recently got released from ‘legal risk’. I suspect Mayor Muriel Bowser’s newly adopted child may be under legal risk, so besides her usual privacy, she’s probably not at liberty to say much.

I was pleasantly surprised to read that our mayor has adopted an infant. So congrats to Mayor Bowser on joining the process and good luck. She’ll need it. She’ll also need a strong support network and some live in help. The Help and I act like a tag team in the care of Babyman. In those early days before Babyman was sleeping through the night, even that had me working at half power running on a few hours of sleep. She might be able to deal with a few nights of no sleep but after about a week of almost no sleep because the screaming bottle feeding poop machine, something horrid happens to your brain. When that happens, you really need your support team. For us that was our relatives, neighbors, church members, co-workers, and any person who offered to babysit.

Mayor Bowser get used to being an old mommy. Forgive people who mistake you for your child’s grandma. I do and it’s not worth my time getting upset.  I’m in my late 40s and my spouse will be 50 before Babyman turns 1. I’d like to think patience comes with age and we’re calmer than younger parents. We’ve been told Babyman is a very calm easygoing baby. I’m not sure that is him or us, but for now, I’ll take the credit.

We’re not done with the process. We’ve got to go to court and appear before a judge in some random area of Maryland. I guess Mayor Bowser will have to deal with legal risk, then once both the birthparent’s parental rights are severed, and the adoption agency/lawyer gets the paperwork in order she too will go before a judge who make her a full fledged mommy.

Welcome to the club Mayor Bowser, as a parent you will see the city in a whole new light.

Babies, babies and more babies

Baby in portable bassinet
Baby in portable bassinet

So we found out two more couples in our general area (two block radius) are pregnant. This is in addition to a colleague of the Help who lives nearby, who recently had a boy. So add those pre-people to the little people who currently occupy our street and we’ll have ourselves an awesome Halloween in a year or so. At one point we had a nice number of toddlers and little kids (5) on our street and it made for fun Halloweens, because they would bring some of their pre-K school friends and have a mass of cuteness go from house to house and it is so fun when you know the kids.

Many years ago, the same thing was breaking out in our two block radius where I was hearing so many wives were getting pregnant, I joked that there must have been something in the water. I might (my memory is fuzzy) have told this to a fellow who was living with his girlfriend, and he laughed nervously. They later married and had a couple kids. So once again, there may be something in the water.

That batch of kids, and their parents, eventually moved away. At the time charter schools were not as valued by the city government and citizens as they are today. The voices saying how charters were so bad were the loudest. Now charters are a part of the system and there are more of them. When my neighbors moved, some of them moved because they did not get into the school of their choice, and at the time, there were not a lot of choices. Some of them moved to be in the boundary of the schools of their choice. And some moved because one of the parents got a job that moved them.

But this time, it’s different. There is the BloomingdaleKids Yahoo group(est. 2009), which has been a wonderful resource for free and cheaper than new stuff, and a way to get rid of stuff. There are more daycares. There are now two daycares above the Shaw metro station (one on S the other on 7th& R-ish) and I see newer child care centers popping up in other locations around town. This time the school lottery is for DCPS and DC Charter Schools, all in one and you can put your child’s name in for 12 schools. There are more charters to choose from and the DCPS schools are improved. There are more reasons to stay and not move as kids get closer to kindergarten. Middle school… that’s a different story.

In the meantime, yay, babies.

Subsidized daycare

No this this not going to turn into a mommy blog, but parenting stuff is on my mind, a lot.Eyeglass binky DC bike map

Recently my daycare had an information session and though not said directly, I’m not paying full price for my son’s daycare. The DC government is requiring that child development staff have a 2 year AA degree. I don’t know how the DC government reimburses those who have to take on that burden. What I do know is that our day care provider takes local and federal monies to operate the place. Those of us paying “full price” aren’t really covering the full price necessary to run an accredited daycare center. As one who would prefer a smaller government footprint in her life, this was a little hard to accept. But then my daycare provider had a bunch of qualities I wanted at a price that worked better for me than other places, so I accept it like the ‘terms and conditions’ thing for a program I need.

One of the things mentioned in the info session was how much money the center got per kid for a feeding program. There was a form the center bugged us about inquiring about our income that I avoided and ignored because I knew we, a dual income family, made too much to qualify for subsidized food. After a phone call asking us please, please, please fill out the form, I did. Apparently they needed everyone’s income for a government program and the center gets so much for lower income kids and so much for those who aren’t low income. The difference is big enough that it seems that it would be bad if my daycare was not economically diverse.

The Childcare voucher program

Another thing that came out of the information session was questioning if we made too much for a voucher. The voucher covers a portion (maybe all, I didn’t catch that part) of the cost that the parent pays. There are bunch of things one needs to do to maintain their voucher status, but it was touted as a very good program. An example was provided of someone making what I would consider a good salary who qualified. They were very encouraging of the voucher program. So I checked out OSSE’s site and according to a report we qualified as we needed daycare for certain things. Regarding income: 200.7

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENT:

DOES THE FAMILY’S INCOME EXCEED THE MAXIMUM INCOME THRESHOLD?

In order to be eligible for subsidized care, the child shall reside with a family whose:

(1)Annual gross family income does not exceed two hundred and fifty percent (250%) of the federal poverty guideline (FPL) or eighty five percent (85%) of the DC median income (SMI) [sic] for a family of the same size, whichever is lower, as provided in Appendix 6: Maximum Income Guidelines for Subsidized Child Care; 

and (2)Family assets do not exceed $1,000,000
Well, our family assets are less than $1 million, but we’re above 400% of the 2017 FPL for a family our size, only because both my spouse and I are working. If one of us were to quit or die, we’d totally qualify.
Hey, we now have a safety school
In efforts to support the daycare and leaving no funding rock unturned, the daycare will be expanding into the Pre-K program. They will be starting a program in 2018 where they will be part of the DC pre-K program…. that’s why they need college educated staff/teachers. There is funding, they are going after the funding, and hopefully they will get enough participants lord willing.
What does this mean for me? For the babyman (formerly known as Helpless)? It means we have a safety school when he heads for the school lottery in 2-3 years. Oh hells yes we have been thinking about schools. There are two elementary charters with pre-K programs that I am thinking about for our son. My plan B (I also have Plans C-E) was to have Center City Charter as a safety school. Just like college, you have the school(s) you really want to go to and the safety school you apply to just in case the ones you really wanted don’t pan out. Now his daycare can be a safety school if the PK3 is still around (and we’re still in DC) when he hits the eligible age.
Ours isn’t the only daycare getting into the PK3-4 system. Associates for Renewal in Education, Inc. the center taking up space in the deteriorating Slater school, next to the crumbling Langston school on the unit block of P St is one. Maybe they, like our daycare have also been able to find monies under government and other rocks in order to hang on to that space with an iron grip….. Maybe that’s what we need for the crumbly schools on P Street, a developer to partner with a child development program, to create ‘family housing’ with daycare on the bottom floor.

Daycare- what I’m looking for is not what the government provides

Eyeglass binky DC bike mapThe Washington Post has an article that mentions a DC government website to help parents locate daycare/childcare. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) has a website called My Child Care and it isn’t half bad. It is useful if you want to know where the daycare is, ranging from individuals caring in their home to full out child care centers. The Post article goes on to mention other resources, some paid, geared towards parents looking for child care.

What I can get out of the OSSE website is location, general age range, are vouchers taken, if is food provided and a few other things that are not too high on my list. The search function for hours is useless and you’d have to look at an individual provider’s operating hours, as there is a field where almost all the providers I searched were 12:00AM to 12:00AM, which is incorrect.

No what I was looking for beyond where were places were things no so well addressed by My Child Care. I wanted to know 1)do they take babies, 2) how much, and 3) is there a wait list and how bad is it? On the first point, My Child Care is so-so. There is an search field for infants 0-12 months, but 6 weeks seems to be the youngest for many places that take infants. On the second and third points there is no information. I found a website, Care Lulu that seems to allow for searching by price, and the 0-3 month age range but I did not see the price for individual day cares. Care Lulu did mention if places took 6 week old babies and I spotted one spot that took infants as young as 1 week, but that place has no openings.

Do I care about accreditations? My little guy hasn’t figured out crawling, or his name (he might just be ignoring me), so right now, no. It just has to be licensed, and better than the child care my mother provided when I and my sister were kids*.

But there are things the DC government cares about. I’m sure there is federal funding and grants behind those cares. As a entity that grants vouchers, they’d care who would take those vouchers. Yet, for the government to include the things I care about, including latest pick up time for infants before they start charging extra, and the other things I mentioned, they would need someone to be proactive in updating the list.

Better than nothing….

 

*I swear my mom just grabbed random women outside the county mental health clinic and asked if they’d watch us. We had some crazy babysitters. She laughs it off when I bring it up.

Looking at the neighborhood with different eyes

So at forty *mumble* years old, I’ve become a mommy through the miracle of adoption. Seven years prior I became a spouse, after living in Shaw as a single lady for about ten years*. I, and the Shaw neighborhood, have changed and with those changes I’ve experienced the neighborhood differently.

After only being a parent for a few months, my view of the neighborhood and the city I’ve lived in for over a decade has drastically changed.Eyeglass binky DC bike mapI’ve observed this in parents, typically people who moved to the neighborhood as single people or newlyweds, and in time had kids, and moved. On an intellectual level I understood the desire to protect their children from the hazards and unpleasantness of some aspects of urban life. As a member of the middle class, you know you have an out, you could, by moving to a solidly middle class neighborhood west of Rock Creek Park or out to certain suburbs or exurbs, you nor your children have to tolerate higher crime, smaller houses, chance of the draw schooling, and off street parking. Now as a mom, I have a better understanding and have the desire to protect my Helpless baby.

But no, we’re not moving anytime soon.

Not to go into my personal career goals, but there is one scenario that would send us to PG County and I’ve already mapped out where we’d relocate. I’ve also been applying to positions in DC and those have much fuzzier scenarios of possibly, probably not, moving to the H StreetCapitol HillStadium Armory area. The job search had more to do with getting married, and I’m more dedicated to a great commute than any neighborhood.

The arrival of the Helpless baby has got me thinking more about parenting things I had thoughts about, prior to his arrival, and parenting things I want to research the heck out of. I have thoughts, slightly unchanged, about schools, child care, general safety, and use of transit. I already know what charter schools we will aim for, what charter will be our safety school, and which religious schools we’ll consider if the charters don’t pan out. Recently I have been thinking about how I could replicate my aunts’ and uncles’ success of raising high earning middle class black men, and I wonder how our neighborhood might work for and against that goal. Then there is the minefield of explaining things that he will observe as we walk around. He’s still non-verbal so I have time.

As I walk around, going to and fro the metro or neighborhood businesses, I see the neighborhood differently. I pay attention to other parents or nannies as they push, carry or walk their charges. I observe their strollers, what their kids wear, and where it looks like they’re heading. I take note what places have parents with kids and how welcoming those places are so I know where we might be able to go. The parents I see going about their day help me feel good about being a parent raising my baby in my hood.

 

*If you’re counting I’ve been in Shaw for a little over 17 years.